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It’s been a long road to recovery for Gordon Hayward of the Boston Celtics and he’s asking fans to have more patience as he continues along that road.
The former Utah Jazz All-Star, who signed with the Celtics as a free agent in the summer of 2017, suffered a gruesome ankle injury in the first five minutes of an opening-night game in Cleveland last season that cost him his first season in Boston.
Averaging 10.6 points in 32 games for the Celtics this season, approximately half of his nightly scoring average in his last season with the Jazz, Hayward realizes it’s going to take more time to get back to the level on which he once played.
“With each game, I get more comfortable playing with the guys,” he told Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. “That’s the biggest thing, you gotta be able to have that experience with them on the court, to kind of know who you’re with, know who you’re playing with, just to know what everybody likes to do, try to maximize their strengths.
“Sometimes that’s running the break, sometimes we have a lot of ball handlers, so that’s just getting out on the wing and getting something easy at the rim.”
Boston has undergone quite a makeover since Hayward signed with Boston in July 2017. The Celtics traded for All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving on Aug. 22, 2017 and young guys Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown stepped to the fore as major contributors in Hayward’s stead.
Hayward began this season as a starter for coach Brad Stevens, but was switched to a bench role after 15 games.
“This is definitely more similar to what I was doing early on in Utah, as opposed to what I did late in Utah,” he told Washburn. “But I think that’s just the nature of who we have on the team and the amount of the guys that can do different things. So, I think, depending on the night, I’m asked to do different things. But it’s definitely different from when I was in Utah.”
Hayward, 28, has progressed as the season has gone on. In December, he averaged 11.4 points and shot 38.1 percent from beyond the 3-point line. His hope is for his body to hold up and strengthen, which would allow him to contribute even more the rest of the way. The ninth overall pick of the 2010 draft by Utah out of Butler, where he played for Stevens, is also averaging 4.9 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.1 steals in 32 games. He is shooting a career-low 39.7 percent from the field, along with 31.1 percent from deep and 88.9 percent from the free-throw line.
“It definitely required a lot of patience, even still,” he said. “I’m still finding my rhythm. Like I was saying, with knowing who I’m out there on the court with, what I’m going to be asked to do, and what the team needs me to do. Patience is a good word for that.”